It seemed like it was yesterday.
I was now the youth director at my church, actually getting paid to do what I love – ministry! I couldn’t wait to begin – the dream that this could be a safe place for teenagers to know and experience God in a Christian community. The vision would grow as I contemplated what would come – salvations, baptisms, retreats, and reaching the lost. I was more than ready to get started!
As youth group begins that first Wednesday evening, I waited for the teenagers to arrive. One student comes in promptly and I think, “Ok, this is just the beginning of that vision.” A few minutes after the youth group has officially started, the next and final student arrives. “Well… I guess that’s it after all.” My first official youth group started with only 2 students.
Have you ever had a God-sized dream? A grand vision that inspires and motivates you to make a difference or fulfill what you were meant to do? It’s quite natural to dream big as God puts desires in your heart to accomplish His plans for your life. In fact, as you spend more time with Him, His desires can become your desires and He will definitely want to see those desires come about! (Psalm 37:4).
Yet when you say ‘yes’ to God, rarely does your dream immediately become your reality. Rather, you’re like me … wondering why all the students missed the memo!
If you have a vision greater than yourself, a God-sized dream, or a revelation that contains something glorious in the future, I want to encourage you with this verse:
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” – Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)
Did you catch that? The Lord is gladdened and celebrates when we start that what He has called us to begin. No matter how insignificant or how minute, it makes a difference because the Lord is in it.
In the context of when this verse was written, the temple of the Lord had been in ruin for almost 20 years. I’m sure there had been a sense of loss, hopelessness, and despair. Yet now was the time that God has given this outstanding revelation to Zechariah to rebuilt it. Daunting? Sure is. Overwhelmed by the magnitude of the vision? You bet!
Hence the encouragement from the Lord to ‘not despise these small beginnings.’ The enemy of our soul will try to discourage and dissuade us from the vision the Lord has set in front of us. He knows the power of persistence in the small details, the plans, and the steps it takes to accomplish the greater good for others. Satan is afraid of that vision becoming your reality so He wants to stop you before you gain traction.
What are the ‘small beginnings’ that you are currently undertaking? Remember, big ideas have small beginnings! Here are some to get you thinking…
- Writing snippets of encouragement, such as a blog?
- Drafting a business plan?
- Painting your first piece of art?
- Dedicating 20 minutes a day to fitness?
- Memorizing a verse a week?
As you can see, the possibilities are endless! The goal isn’t to randomly come up with small things to do, but to start the work of small things that lead towards your God-size vision.
Why then should we not despise the small beginnings?
- SMALL BEGINNINGS PROVIDE A GRAND LEARNING EXPERIENCE
We can have the most wondrous dream for the Lord but lack the know-how and experience to get there. Take Joseph as a great example. He had a grand dream that his family would be bowing down to Him! (Vv. 5-11) Besides the obvious lack of wisdom, another area the Lord needed to work within Joseph was a strong work ethic and to develop his gift of administration. If you recall in Genesis 37 – Joseph was a tattletale (v. 2) and did not work as often as his brothers who were constantly in the field (vv. 12-13). In fact, Joseph was at home (Say spoiled much? He was the favorite! v. 3). Long story short, Joseph was thrown in a cistern by his brothers and then sold him to the Ishmaelites (v.28), who then sold him to Potiphar, an Egyptian captain of the guard (v.36).
It was here that the work began – small beginnings as a slave, no doubt! Yet the Lord was with him and Potiphar entrusted everything to Joseph, making him in charge of his household (Genesis 39:2-6). After Joseph is falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph is thrown in prison (vv.11-20). Yet again, Joseph’s developed work ethic is now realized in prison as the warden entrusts everything under Joseph’s care (v.21-23).
It seems that the dream is finally realized when Joseph correctly interprets Pharaoh’s dreams (Genesis 41:15-32) and offers wisdom of administration in how to carry out the dream (vv.33-39). Pharaoh entrusts everything under Joseph’s care (vv.41-43) and as a result, thousands of people were saved from the famine that raged across the land for 7 years (vv.53-57).
Imagine if Joseph sat in Potiphar’s house complaining about his position? What if Joseph had bitterness while in prison and refused to work diligently? It’s safe to say that he would not be ready for the plan that God had for him. In other words, those small beginnings prepared Joseph for his greater purpose. The same it can be for you! What type of skill is God wanting to perfect in you?
2. SMALL BEGINNINGS DEVELOP GREAT CHARACTER
We all want the position, but do we have the character to keep it? Again, let’s look at Joseph. While he was in Potiphar’s house, his master’s wife continued to entice him, with direct words such as, “Come to bed with me!” (Genesis 39:7). Yet he refused. I love Joseph’s response as a model of character for us today, “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (vv. 8-9). Although Joseph went to prison, he passed the test before God. We do not hear about any accusations on Joseph’s character when he fulfilled the dream God gave him because he walked in the godly character he developed through his trials.
Small beginnings develop the fruit necessary so what is built remains. While we’d like to think we are ready to step into the magnificent vision God has for us, perhaps the waiting is needed to further cultivate the characteristics of Christlikeness. While we don’t like to admit it… do we need to work on patience? Is it kindness? How about humility? There’s always more the Holy Spirit wants to reveal within us and the small beginnings give us a place to work on it.
3. SMALL BEGINNINGS ARE PART OF THE BIGGER PICTURE
Did you know you were meant to do good works? Yes, it’s true! Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Don’t despise the work because it seems small, this is part of the process and the plan to get you where you are meant to go!
Back to my youth ministry days – it took a few weeks later when 0 students showed up one youth group. Now I had a choice – either I give up and despise this ‘small beginning’ or press into what God has for the future. I remembered that God wanted me there. There was a reason, even if I couldn’t see it yet. As Philippians 2:13 says, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
As a result, I recreated ministry efforts to be outreach focused towards those that were interested. Oddly enough, many 8th graders came (ironically the efforts were towards the high school across the street) and helped set the momentum necessary to keep building the youth ministry. By the time I left to pursue a pastorate position in Texas 5 years later, we had many students, student leaders, and youth leaders in that same ministry. Who would have thought it would have gone from 2 to many? If I would have despised those small beginnings, I wouldn’t have seen the big picture in what the Lord wanted for the youth ministry.
That’s not the end – all the small starts and seemingly insignificant efforts build upon each other leading towards God’s greater purposes in mind. Much of what was developed in the youth group was used to help create the young adult ministry in my current position. I’m sure what will be learned here will continue onward for the next step of my journey with the Lord. As Paul says in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.”
May it be so in what God is doing in and through you! Nothing is too small to start and nothing is too little to matter since it’s all part of God’s bigger picture and you are in it!
For this week, begin to reflect on what ‘small beginnings’ are for you. What is God currently doing in and through you in the ‘little things’? Can you see these as a beginning for what the Lord has called you to do? My hope is that you continue to pursue and perfect them, knowing that it is to work for His good pleasure!
Have a blessed week!